Dundalk inflicted ruthless retribution on a hapless Drogheda United side at Oriel Park on Tuesday night. Seven goals was the final tally but in all honesty, it could easily have been double figures. The ease with which the hosts dissected the visitors and dominated possession will certainly be a cause of great concern for Drogheda boss, Robbie Horgan.
In a blistering opening to the game, Dundalk chalked up their first chance after barely a minute, Daryl Horgan bringing the best out of Dave Ryan in the Drogheda goal after being set up by Darren Meenan. Drogheda were on the counter attack directly after that and might have carved out a chance had Andy Boyle not been alert to the danger, cutting out Gavan Holohan’s drilled cross at the near post.
Moments later, Dundalk were on the attack again and Brian Gartland will be wondering quite how he managed to miss the target, he managed to blaze over from barely three yards.
Kurtis Byrne had his first shot of the day on 11 minutes, his low drive from 25 yards trickling harmlessly wide of Ryan’s left-hand post.
The opening goal was a spectacle for the footballing purist; Dane Massey picked up possession inside his own half and went on a driving run, beating three Drogheda players, he then squared to Sean Gannon used his first touch to open up a yard of space for himself and his second touch to slot the ball neatly past Ryan into the net and put the host into a well-deserved lead.
The Lilywhites could have doubled their lead just before half time had Pat Hoban shown a little more guile and taken on the shot himself, having found himself with only the keeper to beat. Instead he opted to pull the ball back to Horgan whose effort was acrobatically tipped wide by Ryan.
Drogheda exerted a short spell of pressure on the hosts in the dying minutes of the half, Fabio O’Brien coming closest with a half-chance inside the box which ultimately came to nothing.
The half time whistle was sounded on a bizarre note, Tom Connolly awarding a free-kick to Drogheda, allowing the players to take up their offensive positions and set up the set-piece, then blowing for half-time before Paul Andrews had a chance to take the kick, much to the frustration of Shane Grimes, who remonstrated with the whistler on his way into the dressing room.
Dundalk began the second half with a noticeably quicker tempo, monopolising possession in the lead up to their second goal which came on 51 minutes. Daryl Horgan was the man in the right place at the right time to pick up the loose ball following Byrne’s effort. He had the simplest of tasks to guide the ball into the empty next and double the home side’s advantage.
In the aftermath of that goal, Eric Foley received his marching orders; Tom Connolly had no hesitation in showing him a second yellow card for remonstrating and duly pointed him towards the tunnel.
If Dundalk’s first goal was a thing of beauty, their third goal was a thing of comedy; a lack of communication in the Drogheda rearguard resulted in Paul Crowley heading the ball over his advancing goalkeeper, leaving him stranded as the ball bounced over the line.
Horgan might have gotten a second goal had Ryan not been alert to tip his curling shot from outside the box over the bar on 73 minutes. The fourth goal did come for Dundalk from the resulting corner, however; captain Andy Boyle stealing in at the back post to stab home from the set-piece.
Just as we caught our breath following the fourth goal, the fifth was hot on its heels. Barely 60 seconds after Boyle slotted home, substitute David McMillan got in on the act, his shot from just inside the box beating Ryan at the far post.
If five was fantastic, six was sublime. Richie Towell got on the end of a loose ball in the air, volleyed it into the ground and the ball glided gracefully into Ryan’s top corner.
Perhaps the loudest cheer of the night came on 80 minutes when Keith Ward replaced Kurtis Byrne – Ward having not played since early last season when he picked up a serious knee injury.
The misery wasn’t over for Horgan’s charges as on 86 minutes, David McMillan notched up his second goal of the night, driving into the Drogheda box and slotting coolly past Ryan who must have been seeking the sanctuary of the dressing room at that stage, having endured a torrid night in North Louth.
Not long after the seventh goal had gone in, that very welcome final whistle came for Drogheda. Dundalk will take some stopping this season.
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle, Brian Gartland, Dane Massey; Daryl Horgan (Marc Griffin, 74), Richie Towell, Chris Shields, Darren Meenan; Kurtis Byrne (Keith Ward, 80), Pat Hoban (David McMillan, 64).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Ruaidhri Higgins, Mark Rossiter, Simon Kelly.
Drogheda United: Dave Ryan; Michael Daly, Alan McNally, Ciaran McGuigan, Shane Grimes; Eric Foley, Gavan Holohan, Paul Andrews, Carl Walshe (Paul Crowley, 57) ; Gary O’Neill (Philip Hughes 73), Declan O’Brien (Sean O’Connor, 79).
Subs not used: Dylan Connolly (gk), Daire Doyle, Dominic Mahon, Roy Kierans.
Booked: Eric Foley (38)
Sent Off: Eric Foley (51)
Referee: Tomas Connolly
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Chris Shields (Dundalk)